Crucial Lords vote today on Health Bill's future

Peers in the House of Lords will today take a key vote on whether to scrap the Health Bill following a gruelling debate yesterday.

Members of the House of Lords debated the Health Bill for more than 10 hours on Tuesday continuing the debate past midnight.

Around 85 peers have already come forward to speak and a further 10 are expected to continue the debate today ahead of the vote on whether the Bill should be withdrawn.

The House of Lords will also take a second vote on whether key sections of the Bill on the health secretary's powers and competition should go to a select committee for in-depth scrutiny.

Ahead of the vote, GPC member and Medical Practitioners' Union president Dr Ron Singer urged the House of Lords to scrap the Bill, calling it 'unamendable'.

He said: 'I hope enough peers have the courage to stand up to the government on the basis of democracy as well as the fact this Bill is unfit for purpose and unnecessary.

'This is a chance to restore some decency to the parliamentary process and I hope the peers don't flunk the opportunity.'

But Labour peer Baroness Thornton of Manningham admitted most peers were unlikely to back the calls for the Health Bill to be scrapped. But the motion on whether to send sections of the Bill to a select committee was likely to attract more support, she said.

Peers in the House of Lords raised key questions about the Health Bill during yesterday's debate, with concerns focusing on the health secretary's responsibility and the possibility of the opening of the NHS to the private sector. See below for key comments during yesterday's debate.

Health minister Earl Howe (Conservative): 'The case for change is clear and compelling, and I am personally in no doubt that the changes set out in this Bill are right for our NHS and-more importantly-right for patients.'

Lord Rea (Labour): 'I know that many thousands of people throughout the country oppose the Bill and want the House to reject it. They will be bitterly disappointed if I do not call for a vote [to withdraw the Bill], and I will not ignore.'

Baroness Williams of Crosby (Liberal Democrat): 'I have been pursuing the issue of the accountability and responsibility of the secretary of state for at least a year, and time and again I have gone back to the DoH and talked about the need to make it absolutely clear. Why is it not absolutely clear?'

Baroness Thornton (Labour): 'This Bill will change the NHS from a health system into a competitive market. It will turn patients into consumers and patient choice into shopping. Most crucially, it will turn our healthcare into a traded commodity.'

Lord Darzi of Denham (Labour): 'The NHS remains this country's most cherished institution. One might conclude that, since our NHS is so precious, it should be protected from change. That is untrue. To believe in the NHS is to believe in its reform.'

Lord Mawson (Cross bench): 'We know from personal experience how difficult it is to bring about a more integrated service and innovation within such bureaucratic and out-of-date structures. I wish the government well with their difficult task in bringing much needed change to the NHS.'

Baroness Murphy (Cross bench): Rarely have I received so much misinformed lobbying about a Bill. I read that armies of evil capitalists from the United States and the Middle East are geared up to zoom into the UK to hoover up our favourite hospitals and services. It is twaddle.

Baroness Cumberlege (Conservative): 'We are now giving clinicians another chance to lead, shape and organise the services that they know matter to patients. That makes a lot of sense.'

Lord Clinton-Davis (Labour): 'When the prime minister and others claim that these so-called reforms are designed to improve the health service, they are disbelieved by senior doctors and others employed in and dedicated to the NHS. For "improve" they should substitute "fragment".'

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Labour): 'The Bill does not state that comprehensive services must be provided, so there may well be large gaps in service provision in parts of the country, with no secretary of state accountable.'

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